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United States v. Crawford

United States District Court, D. Oregon

November 7, 2014


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For Cody Seth Crawford, 73675-065, Defendant: Bryan E. Lessley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Eugene, OR.

For USA, Plaintiff: William E. Fitzgerald, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office, Eugene, OR; Fara T. Gold, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, Washington, DC; Saeed A. Mody, Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division, Washington, DC.

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Ann Aiken, Chief United States District Judge.

Defendant is charged with damaging religious property in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 247(c) and using fire to commit a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(h) (1). The charges arise from an arson fire committed on November 28, 2010 at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center, a mosque located in Corvallis, Oregon.

Defendant now moves to suppress all of his statements and conduct from December 14, 2010 through April 2011, based on lack of relevance, undue prejudice, and violations of his rights to due process and against self-incrimination. Specifically, defendant argues that the statements and conduct sought to be excluded are unreliable, irrelevant and involuntary as he was in the midst of a psychotic breakdown. Defendant also contends that law enforcement officers' coercive conduct caused his breakdown and subsequent involuntary statements, and that officers questioned him after invocation of his right to counsel.

On October 7 and 8, 2014, the court held an evidentiary hearing and heard oral argument. Defendant's motion is denied, with leave to renew on evidentiary grounds prior to trial.


During the early morning hours of November 28, 2010, a City of Corvallis Police Officer saw smoke and flames coming from the Salmon Alfarisi Islamic Center (the mosque). The Corvallis Fire Department responded and determined that the fire was set intentionally. Apparently, the arson occurred shortly after reports of a potential terrorist act at the Christmas Tree-Lighting Ceremony in Portland.

The fire was burning in the office area of the mosque near the front entrance. Investigators discovered a broken window, a brick underneath it, and a two-liter soda bottle containing a liquid that smelled like gasoline. The top of the bottle was melted, as if exposed to heat. Gasoline had been poured along the sill of the broken window and on the carpet near the window. Officers also recovered a soda bottle cap and a blue Mag-Lite flashlight at the scene.

Law enforcement officers canvassed the surrounding neighborhood seeking witnesses to the arson. Defendant lived in the neighborhood, about 200 feet from the mosque. At approximately 11:00 a.m. on November 28, defendant was interviewed by FBI Special Agent Melanie Wissel and Corvallis Police Detective Bryan Rehnberg. Defendant stated that he knew about the fire from news reports, but he denied knowing anything more about it. Defendant also remarked that his blue Mag-Lite flashlight had been stolen from his porch. At that point, officers had not revealed publicly that a similar flashlight had been found at the mosque.

At around 5:00 p.m., Rehnberg and Detective Tyson Poole returned to defendant's home and showed him a picture of

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the flashlight recovered from the scene. Defendant admitted that it looked like his flashlight. According to the government, defendant also suggested that someone might have wanted to commit arson at the mosque in retaliation for the terror plot in Portland, or that a member of the mosque's congregation might have started the fire in an attempt to conceal evidence.

Based on defendant's statements, two search warrants were obtained to search defendant's home and an unattached garage; they were executed in the early morning and evening hours of November 29. The FBI and police department seized cans of motor oil and a partially full gas can, along with batteries similar to those found in the flashlight and defendant's laptop computer. On November 30, 2010, officers returned with a third search warrant and obtained swabs of defendant's DNA.

Detectives also obtained a search warrant for defendant's Facebook account and discovered posts referencing the suspect in the Portland terror plot and stating that the suspect had frequented the mosque near defendant's home. Defendant also allegedly posted that he " hate[s] the ji-had'st."

Defendant maintains that a continuous police presence remained at or near his home for several days. By December 3, 2010, the media had identified defendant as a suspect in the arson. Defendant asserts that numerous reporters knocked on his door, and the media presence remained in his neighborhood for the next ten days. See Def.'s Ex. V (series).

Around this time, defendant allegedly began exhibiting' " bizarre" behavior.

On the evening of December 14, 2010, defendant's mother drove him to McMinnville to visit his sister and his son. When they arrived in McMinnville, defendant exited the vehicle and ran away. Shortly afterward, police received reports of a disturbance at a gasoline station and a Blockbuster Video store located on Highway 99 West in McMinnville. Apparently, defendant ran up to a car and shined his flashlight over the occupants, made several comments about Muslims and terrorists, and told the attendant that the FBI and CIA did not know of his existence. Defendant also entered an attached convenience store and made additional statements about Muslims, terrorists, the events of 9/11 and the FBI. Defendant also told an employee that he had a . 45 caliber firearm. He was not armed, however. Defendant then entered a nearby Blockbuster Video store where his erratic behavior continued.

Police officers arrived and arrested defendant for creating a public disturbance. As he was being handcuffed, defendant stated that only Christians could understand him because he was a Christian warrior. Defendant also allegedly announced, " You will never know the truth about the mosque."

While being booked into the Yamhill County Jail, defendant made a number of statements, including that Muslims had his child and that his ex-wife was a Muslim (apparently, she is not). A recording of the incident reflects that defendant sometimes sang, quoted movies, pleaded, cried, and often screamed in a non-sensical manner while at the jail.

Due to his behavior, defendant was transported to the Willamette Valley Medical Center. Defendant remained uncooperative, combative, and verbally attacked the officers with him, calling them terrorists. Defendant also stated that he " didn't burn that mosque" and referred to himself as a Christian warrior. Eventually, he was given intravenous medications and discharged to the Yamhill County Jail.

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Defendant's disruptive behavior continued at the jail during the early morning hours of December 15. Defendant accused his former wife of being a Muslim and kidnaping his son, referred to " fucking Muslim bastards" and the " fuckin mosque," and made repeated references to " jihad" among other comments, most of which were non-sensical. Defendant complained about his handcuffs and told the, officers that he was paranoid and mentally ill. Defendant also asked for his lawyer on several occasions. Ultimately, defendant was released and returned to his home in Corvallis.

On December 16, 2010, defendant's mother called the police and reported that defendant was saying " weird" things and acting strangely. Defendant was transported to the Good Samaritan Regional ...

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